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Tampa Bay Lightning Draft Mulligan: The 2003 NHL Entry Draft

It’s a spicy one!

Honda NHL SuperSkills Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

What if we could take a mulligan on a Tampa Bay Lightning draft, and re-do the picks the team made? Maybe the team isn’t where it is now. Maybe some of it’s future draft picks don’t get made because the team ended up being better and got worse picks in future drafts. Maybe the team has another Stanley Cup in the trophy case. There are lots of trickle down effects that could happen in such a case. But it’s still fun to ask “What If?”

We’ve covered a lot of Lightning drafts, but we’ve still got a pretty big number of drafts let to cover in the Mulligan Series. Today, it’s the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. We’re back in a time when there was still nine rounds in the draft. In real life, the Lightning ended up making 11 picks with eight of them coming after the 5th round. Oof. That makes it harder to find talent here, but we’re going to try our best.

The rules for this Mulligan are that I can only select a player that was drafted within the next 20 draft picks after the Lightning’s selection. This is to give some reality to the possibility of having made the “right” pick according to who was available and who might have been on the draft board at the time. That means that I can’t turn a bust of a first round pick into a super star long shot seventh rounder. Any trades that were made at the draft, including trading draft picks away, can be undone if there is no player worthy of the pick the team traded for, or if there is a star player the team could have selected instead of trading away the pick.

All stats are as of the regular season finale of the 2018-19 season.

First Round, 25th Pick, 25th Overall

TRADE: The Lightning traded the 25th overall pick to the Florida Panthers at the draft for two second round picks and a sixth round pick.

VERDICT: OVERTURNED! Let’s keep this pick!

New Pick: F Corey Perry, 998 GP, 372 goals, 404 assists, 776 points

The Florida Panthers whiffer with their pick of Anthony Stewart who only managed 71 points in 262 career NHL games. But we can grab ourselves an impact player here with Corey Perry who ultimately went 28th overall to the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. He’s closing in on 1,000 games played and while he has slowed down late in his career, he did win a Hart Trophy and the Rocket Richard when he scored 50 goals and 98 points in 2010-11. Until this past season, and removing his rookie season, he averaged over 60 points per season during his career. He has been an impact player and would have given the Lightning another high end right winger to go with Martin St. Louis... if he stayed in Tampa and flourished.

Second Round, 32nd Pick, 62nd Overall

TRADE: The Lightning traded the 62nd overall pick to the St. Louis Blues for Cory Stillman. There are a couple of pretty good players that could have been taken here. David Backes was selected with the Blues pick. Jimmy Howard went a couple picks later. But it’s also hard for me to overlook the fact that Stillman put up 80 points for the Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning. Since so much of this exercise is hind-sight and seeing into the future, I can’t bring myself to reverse this trade because Stillman did so much in the 2003-04 season.

Third Round, 28th Pick, 96th Overall

Original Pick: G Jonathan Boutin, Never appeared in NHL

New Pick: D Jan Hejda, 627 GP, 25 goals, 110 assists, 135 points

Hejda is the only real pick here here for us. He would end up going 106th overall to the Buffalo Sabres. It took until 2006-07 for him to come to the NHL and did so at the age of 28. He began his career playing one season with the Edmonton Oilers. A year later he was with the Columbus Blue Jackets before finishing his career out with four years with the Colorado Avalanche. Not a big point producer, the Czech defenseman was solid enough and averaged 21:07 during his career. He was consistently in the 10-20 point range throughout his career.

Seventh Round, 27th Pick, 224th Overall

Original Pick: G Gerald Coleman, 2 GP, 0-0-1, .882 SV%, 2.77 GAA

New Pick: D Toby Enstrom, 719 GP, 54 goals, 254 assists, 308 points

Dustin Byfuglien ended up being one pick outside of our allowed range, or he would have been the pick. However, Enstrom has also had a pretty solid career on the blue line. He would end up being drafted 239th overall by the Atlanta Thrashers and joined them for the 2007-08 season. He moved to Winnipeg when the franchise relocated and continued to have a strong career on the blue line. He topped out with 50 and 51 points in 2009-10 and 2010-11. He spent last season with MODO Hockey in the Swedish Allsvenskan after a rough 2017-18 with the Jets spelled the end of his time in the NHL.

Seventh Round, 30th Pick, 227th Overall

Original Pick: F Jay Rosehill, 117 GP, 5 goals, 3 assists, 8 points

New Pick: D Dustin Byfuglien, 869 GP, 177 goals, 348 assists, 525 points

Oh. Hey Dustin Byfuglien. How you doing? Guess we got you after all! This pick was acquired at the 2002 draft when the Lightning sent a 2002 second round pick to the Dallas Stars for Brad Lukowich and this pick. Good deal! Byfuglien has had an interesting career playing both forward and defense. He’s a big, rugged individual that often toes the line physically. But he sure knows how to shoot the puck and score points from the blue line. He’s topped 15 goals seven times over his career and has been consistently in the 40-50 point range for most of his career as well. He’s never won a major award or been a finalist for one, but he’s a pretty darn good defenseman.

Eighth Round, 26th Pick, 225th Overall

TRADE: The Lightning traded a 2004 seventh round pick for this pick on draft day. Since it’s a future, we get to keep it! And we’re making two picks in a row, which might not go so well for us here.

Original Pick: F Raimonds Danilics, Never appeared in the NHL

New Pick: G Jaroslav Halak, 489 GP, 254-161-52, .916 SV%, 2.49 GAA

Well, the first of the back-to-back picks is starting out pretty nicely. A starting goaltender? Yes please. He’s not the greatest goalie ever to play, but he’s been a pretty servicable starting goaltender through much of his career. In 2011-12, he combined with Brian Elliott to win the Jennings Trophy as the St. Louis Blues allowed the fewest goals against. He also finished 6th in the Vezina voting next to Elliott who finished 5th. He only finished in he top 10 in Vezina voting one other time in his career in 2009-10.

Eighth Round, 27th Pick, 256th Overall

Original Pick: D Brady Greco, Never appeared in the NHL

New Pick: F Matt Moulson, 650 GP, 176 goals, 193 assists, 369 points

Ok, so about that comment about this potentially being pretty rough with the back-to-back picks in the eighth round. Turns out not to be. Though if not for the presence of both of these players, we would have been left with Tanner Glass as the only other player worth anything. And only one player beyond that who even appeared in an NHL game (Joey Tenute with one game).

With Matt Moulson though, we get ourselves a pretty decent middle six forward. He had some good seasons early in his career before he started to tail off in his early 30s. It took until his age-26 season to really break out into the NHL and scored 30+ goals three years in a row. Not a bad addition to the roster.

Ninth Round, 12th Pick, 273rd Overall

TRADE: The Lightning traded Marc Bergevin a little over a month before the draft to the Pittsburgh Penguins for this pick. You got it. He had only played one game for the Lightning this time around (he had been a member of the original Lightning) and only played one more season before retiring and going into front office work.

Original Pick: F Albert Vishnyakov, Never appeared in the NHL

New Pick: G Brian Elliott, 441 games played, 225-139-43, .912 SV%, 2.48 GAA

Wait, wasn’t I already talking about this guy? Well, I guess we can have Halak’s Blues partner too. Elliott made it into the NHL at age-23 in 2008-09 with the Ottawa Senators. He’s had his struggles through his career with some flashes of great years. At worst, he’s a solid back-up. At best, he’s an ok starter. Elliott ultimately went 291st overall, the next to last player to be selected in this draft.

Ninth Round, 25th Pick, 286th Overall

TRADE: The Lightning traded a 2004 ninth round pick for this pick. Trading futures, so we get to keep it. Oh, and we’ll be picking back to back again. Not to sound like a broken record, but this could get rough.

Original Pick: F Zbynek Hrdel, Never appeared in the NHL

New Pick: F David Jones, 462 GP, 104 goals, 87 assists, 191 points

For being this deep into the draft, with just six more picks after us, the pickings are slim. But we do luck out with David Jones being here. Jones was a middle six forward averaging 14:58 TOI in his career. He had a couple of pretty good years in the middle of his career when he went 27-18-45 in 2010-11 and 20-17-37 in 2011-12 with the Colorado Avalanche. He trailed off after that, but picked up a 30 point year in 2013-14 with the Calgary Flames. He retired after the 2015-16 season.

Ninth Round, 26th Pick, 287th Overall

Original Pick: F Nick Tarnasky, 245 GP, 13 goals, 17 assists, 30 points

New Pick: Keep him

The only two players selected after Tarnasky to ever appear in the NHL were David Jones and Brian Elliott. So we don’t have any other choice but to keep him. And at least he did play some games in the NHL. He averaged a grand total of 7:10 TOI per game over his five year NHL career. His best year came in 2007-08 with the Lightning when he had six goals, 10 points in 80 games and average 8:15 TOI.

Conclusions

Well, this was certainly a spicy one. A lot was going on here and I want to take a moment to thank each one of you that actually read to the end because there are a TON of words here. Ultimately with this mulligan, we still made nine picks after undoing the 3-for-1 trade of the first round pick.

In Corey Perry, we’ve added a high end top-six forward. With Byfuglien, Enstrom, and Hejda, that’s a pretty solid defensive unit with two very good top-four defensemen with offensive upside. There’s a couple of middle six forwards in the mix for some depth. And two potential starting goaltenders, or at least solid back-ups in Elliott and Halak.

All and all, this would have been an amazing draft. The 11 picks the Lightning made in real life totaled up to 491 games played, 18 goals, 26 assists, and 44 points. 245 games and 30 points came just from Nick Tarnasky. Two goaltenders were also drafted with them playing just two games in the NHL between them.